Sinn Féin MLA and justice spokesperson Linda Dillon has said a settlement made to the family of Bellaghy Wolfe Tones chairman Sean Brown today is a clear indication of failures in the police investigation into the 1997 murder.
The Mid Ulster MLA said:
“Today, the PSNI has made an undisclosed settlement to the family of Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAA chairman Sean Brown for failures in the original police investigation.
“Sean Brown was abducted and murdered by a Loyalist death squad 25 years ago while locking up the GAA club.
“There has always been concerns of collusion between the RUC and Loyalist death squads.
“Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan said as far back as 2004 that the police investigation hade been ‘incomplete and inadequate’ and she said that ‘no earnest effort was made to identify those who had carried out the murder’.
“The Brown family has been critical of the police handling of Sean Brown’s murder and this settlement today is the clearest indication that there were serious failures.
“This has added additional trauma to a family that has already suffered so much.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support the Brown family in their campaign for truth and justice.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has urged the government to progress plans for an inquiry into the valproate scandal.
The scandal emerged after pregnant women were prescribed valproate for conditions including epilepsy, despite the fact that the medication caused foetal defects.
A government inquiry into the scandal was announced 18 months ago, but the government has failed to establish the terms of reference of a timeline for the inquiry in the intervening period.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Teachta Doherty told the Tánaiste:
“It has been 18 months since the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, committed to holding an inquiry into the valproate scandal. Yet 18 months on there are still no terms of reference and no timeline for an inquiry.
“There is still no HSE Disability Pathway in place for families harmed. Tánaiste this has been raised with you here in the Dáil on numerous occasions with no clear response.
“Families who have suffered for decades deserve the truth. Hundreds of children were born in this state with serious health issues as a result of the prescribing of this drug.
“So Tánaiste, when will we see the terms of reference and what will the timeline for the inquiry be?”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said today that threats to breach an international treaty by the British government must be condemned by the international community.
Teachta McDonald said:
"The Irish Protocol gives the north access to both the EU and British markets; representing a market of more than 500 million people. It protects the Good Friday Agreement and prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland.
"It presents massive opportunities for the north, and does nothing to undermine the constitutional provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Whilst there are practical issues related to the operation of the Protocol to be addressed, joint solutions to these issues must be found through dialogue between the British government and the EU, not unilateral action.
"The EU has offered solutions, and this message has been echoed again today by the Vice President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič. I welcome his statement.
"On the other hand, the British government is engaged in threats to breach international rule of law.
"If the British government follows through on these threats to unilaterally denounce and disapply the Protocol, this would terminate the Withdrawal Agreement Treaty between the British government and the EU.
"Walking away from international obligations would represent an appalling attack on the international rule of law. Any such action, and the threat to do so, must be firmly condemned by the international community.
"The British government says that it wants to act responsibly and respect the Good Friday Agreement, yet their objectives are incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement. Unilateral action will deepen political instability and economic uncertainty.
"It amounts to an anti-Good Friday Agreement agenda disingenuously wrapped up in pro-Good Friday Agreement rhetoric.
"This strategy is actively supported by the DUP, who refuse to enter government in the north, despite the fact that the political institutions are not a party to the Withdrawal Agreement. It is denying democracy and punishing the public and this reckless boycott must end."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has said that CSO figures published today, which show the largest annual Consumer Price Index increase since November 2000, reinforce the need for the government to introduce targeted measures that support low and middle-income households.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“Figures produced by the CSO today show that the Consumer Price Index rose by 7% in the year to April 2022. That is up from an annual increase of 6.7% in the year to March 2022.
“These figures reflect the largest annual increase in the CPI in over two decades since November 2000.
“We are continuing to see alarming increases in transport of +18.9% and in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels of +17.1%.
“I am therefore once again urging the government to introduce urgent measures that support workers and families.
“The government must be proactive and help to relieve some of the ever-worsening financial pressures on workers and families, and set out a roadmap for the State to navigate through this cost of living crisis.
“Inflation this year is expected to further increase – with energy prices already having risen by 45 percent.
“Recent reports by the ESRI and Central Bank show there is further scope for the government to introduce measures to support households.
“Sinn Féin has proposed targeted and sensible measures that would provide real relief for households.
“By removing excise duty from home heating oil and negotiating with the European Commission to reduce VAT on domestic energy bills.
“By introducing cost of living cash payments, extending the fuel allowance season by six weeks and increasing social welfare rates for the most vulnerable in response to inflation.
“And by reducing childcare costs and supporting renters through a refundable tax credit equivalent to one month’s rent and a ban on rent increases.
“Without taking action, the government is allowing a reduction in the living standards of lower and middle-income households.
“The government can and must do more.”
Spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has called for a cross-Government high level taskforce to be established to bring forward recommendations on how to lower the price of renewable energy here, to bring it in line with European norms.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Justice, Senator Lynn Boylan, said it is government policy which will decide whether Irish consumers are paying the lowest, or the highest, prices for renewable electricity in Europe.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“Next week we are expecting the results of the second auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) to be published.
“It’s expected the final prices in the RESS 2 auction will be significantly higher than they were in the first auction in 2020. We are going in the wrong direction on the cost of renewables.
“Although this will still be lower than wholesale electricity prices, our prices are much higher than other European countries, and more needs to be done to lower this price to deliver savings for households.
“I’m calling for a cross-Government high level taskforce to be established, to work with industry, to bring forward recommendations within six months on how we can lower these prices.
“Urgent action is needed now to deliver savings for households and to ensure Ireland is competitive to export excess wind energy to Europe.”
Senator Boylan said;
“Why, when we hear so much about our excellent wind energy resources, are our prices so high? In 2020, we had our first auction where wind energy cleared at €74 per megawatt-hour (MWh).
"This was the highest in Europe in 2020 and in 2021. No one else was in the 70s and you will see prices in the 50s and, in Spain, even in the 20s.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. The wind industry has told the Climate Action Committee that they could produce electricity from Irish wind at half the current price. All that is in the way is government policy.
“Factors driving these high costs such as delays with planning and high grid connection costs must be addressed.
“It is the choices the government has made that have given us the highest prices and it will be the choices the government makes which will decide whether Irish consumers are paying the lowest, or the highest, possible prices for renewable electricity.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has said there is widespread frustration among students and parents at reports of sustained levels of grade inflation and the use of a lottery system to allocated high-demand courses.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“It is disappointing to see reports that the CAO system will again use a lottery system to allocated places on in-demand courses. It is unfair on students that are already dealing with a huge amount of pressure.
“What is needed now is for students to know that everything is being done to help them to progress in their education and careers.
“The department of Education needs to get a handle on grade inflation, and we also need to expand in-demand courses particularly in areas where we have skill shortages.
“We know from past years that the number of additional places announced to take pressure off the system does not reflect the reality on the ground.
“Last year we were told over 5,000 additional places were added to ease pressure on grade inflation, yet in the end only 2,500 additional offers were made by the CAO - only 500 over what was needed to match increased demographic demand.
“Each year the number of applicants to the CAO system increases, yet this has not been matched by additional places on the most in-demand courses.
“The government needs to join the dots between skill shortages in our society and places in education.
“The fact that the government is again scrambling at the 11th hour to try and deal with this situation is extremely disappointing and shows a disregard for students. That said, it is not too late if decisive action is taken now to increase places and control grade inflation.”
Limerick Sinn Féin TD, Maurice Quinlivan, has called for the government to take additional steps to address the overcrowding at the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick.
The Sinn Féin Deputy made the comments after data he received, in response to a Parliamentary Question, which shows that nearly 9,000 people were waiting more than 12 hours for treatment at University Hospital Limerick in 2021.
The Sinn Féin Deputy commented:
“The figures provided to me today are a shocking indictment of the lack of bed capacity and staffing levels at University Hospital Limerick. In 2021, there were 8,720 patients waiting more than 12 hours for treatment at University Hospital Limerick. In 2013, the figure was 4,066.
“These are incredible numbers when you consider the research report by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in the UK that noted that there is, on average, one excess death per every 67 patients that stay in an Emergency Department for 8 to 12 hours.
“While these are extremely disappointing figures, it is important to recognise that the staff at University Hospital Limerick continue to do an incredible job in extremely difficult circumstances. It is neither fair on them nor their patients to have such long wait times. While there has been investment and limited bed capacity provided in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, there remains both a shortage of beds and of medical professionals at UHL.”
“UL Hospitals Group recognise that there is a need for an additional 68 non-consultant hospital doctors to address shortcomings in prompt treatment. The government needs to ensure that such posts are filled as quickly as possible.”
Commenting on the pending 96-bed unit at UHL, Deputy Quinlivan stated:
“UL Hospitals Group acknowledges that there is a shortage of bed capacity and that they have the lowest inpatient bed capacity when benchmarked per population against other Model 4 Hospitals. They recognise that an additional 200 inpatient beds are needed to bring ULHG in line with the national average.
“This makes it more disappointing that the proposed 96-bed unit will only deliver 48 news beds, while the other 48 will replace other beds at the hospital. I have called for the construction of this unit to be expedited, but it seems the Minister for Health will not do so. There is no denying there is a crisis of capacity at UHL, yet this new unit remains at least 18 months away from completion.”
Concluding his remarks, the Limerick TD added:
“It was recently announced that a specialist team is to be deployed to UHL as part of a plan to ease the crisis in overcrowding. Despite requests, the details of this team’s remit, and make-up remain very vague. I urge the Minister for Health to ensure that they are established quickly and that he commits to their recommendations being published and acted on.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has reported ‘despicable’ anti-GAA graffiti in Ballymoney to the police.
The North Antrim MLA said:
“I am appalled that graffiti attacking the GAA has appeared in the centre of Ballymoney.
“This is a despicable attempt to create fear and stir up hate.
“The GAA is thriving at the heart of our communities and is enjoyed by people from all backgrounds.
“I have reported this graffiti to the police and have requested that it is removed immediately.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said work should begin today to invest an extra £1 billion to fix the health service if the DUP ends its boycott of the Executive.
Supporting calls by the BMA and the Royal Colleges for investment in the health service, the party’s health spokesperson said:
“I fully support the call of our doctors, nurses and health workers for an Executive to be formed immediately so that we can start to fix our health service.
“All parties committed to making the transformation of our health service a priority, but health workers need more than commitments and promises – they want all parties around the table in an Executive meeting and working together to deliver.
“That means investing an extra £1 billion into the health service to hire more doctors and nurses, tackle lengthy waiting lists and continue the transformation of health.
“And it means securing the first multi-year Budget to ensure that much needed transformation can begin.
“Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive today, to nominate Ministers and work with others to start the important work that people elected us to do last Thursday.
“I would urge the DUP to heed the calls from our health workers and end its boycott of the Assembly and Executive.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has commented on the latest rental report from Daft.ie, which shows that rents are continuing to rise across the State.
Renters faced average rent increases of 11.7% in the first three months of 2022, compared to the same period last year. The average monthly asking rent in the first three months of 2022 was €1,567.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
"The latest Daft.ie rental report for the first three months of 2022 shows that the average asking rent is up 11.7% across the State.
"The report shows that twenty-two counties had double digit rent inflation.
"Rents are continuing to soar outside the Dublin area, with rents increasing by over 20% in Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal.
"Double digit rent increases are not being accompanied by increases in wages and with the cost of living skyrocketing, workers and families will struggle to meet these rises.
"The government’s 2% rent cap is clearly not working.
"We need a ban on rent increases on all existing and new tenancies, and we need government to put money back in renters’ pockets through a refundable tax credit worth a month’s rent.
"Government must also accept that we need to see affordable cost rental housing delivered at scale - at least 4,000 units per year to meet affordable rental demand."
The East Derry MLA said:
"The DUP must immediately drop its boycott of the institutions and get back into the Executive so we are in a position to take decisions to support struggling workers and families.
"The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has stated that 43,000 households in the north face food and energy costs which are higher than their income.
“Sinn Féin has a plan to give every household in the north £230, that money can go straight into people's pockets if we can form an Executive.
“Right now people across the north are worrying about how they will feed their families or heat their homes, addressing this must be the priority for an incoming Executive and attempts to delay or block the formation of an Executive are unforgivable.
“Sinn Féin and other parties were given a mandate to tackle the cost of living crisis and to put money into people’s pockets, this must be done without delay."
Speaking after a meeting of the Committee on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly, called on the Tánaiste to finally heed advice and calls from international civil society organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Trócaire and Christian Aid, and commit to, and push for, a TRIPS waiver for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Unfortunately, with only 13% of people double vaccinated in low- and middle-income countries, and with only 1% boosted, we face a significant global problem.
“If we really believe the mantra that ‘nobody is safe until everybody is safe’, then we must act and act urgently.
“If we fail to act now, then we will not be prepared for the next pandemic or outbreak, and low- and middle-income countries will be left behind once again.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic showed us the way – there was no real and significant progress until medicines were made freely available and, as a result, millions of lives were lost due to lack of access.
“It was clear at today’s hearing that action is needed to ensure that both vaccines and treatments are made available worldwide.
“The pharmaceutical companies focused on the need to invest, however, representatives from Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam were clear – given that much of the investment to date has been through public money, it is the public, globally, who should be the beneficiaries.
“The Tánaiste sits on the Council of Ministers of Trade and he can, and should, use any influence he has to encourage the introduction of a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver on Covid-19 vaccines and technology.
“Such a waiver would allow for negotiation at local level for the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights and ensure people in low- and middle-income countries have access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We can and should be leaders on this important issue.”
Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd has welcomed a call by business leaders calling for the restoration of the Executive.
Speaking following the call from business leaders, the Upper Bann MLA said:
“Businesses and workers need clarity and certainty at this time, not more political stunts and game-playing by the DUP and the Tory government.
“The responsibility for finding solutions to the Protocol lies with Boris Johnson and the EU, that dialogue must continue, but we cannot allow society and businesses to be held to ransom.
“Sinn Féin is committed to forming an Executive immediately; to support workers and families with the cost-of-living crisis; to invest an extra £1bn in health and to support businesses in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the protocol.
“The DUP’s refusal to form an Executive is punishing businesses and workers and getting in the way of progress.
'They should join the rest of us, to get help out the door, and form the Executive.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has urged Minister O’Brien to now initiate a comprehensive review of operations at An Bord Pleanala (ABP). The call comes as new allegations have emerged which indicate that the problems at ABP may be broader than one individual.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The Minister is due to publish the terms of reference into his Senior Counsel review of allegations of a conflict of interest related to a board member at ABP.
“More allegations of potential impropriety have emerged from The Ditch online magazine. The latest revelations suggest that the problems at ABP appear to be broader than one individual.
“The crux of the allegations that appear today relate to planning inspectors’ reports being edited, in relation to a controversial development in Dublin 8, after input from senior board members at ABP.
“It is clear now that the Minister must take swift action and begin a comprehensive review of all operations at ABP.
“ABP must have the trust of the public if it is to do its job correctly and this trust is being eroded by every allegation emerging in the media.
“I have written to the Minister today urging him to take broaden the scope of his Senior Counsel review to examine not only the alleged conflicts of interest by Bord vice chair Paul Hyde, but all of the operations of the Bord and in particular of its Strategic Housing Development division."
MacManus Commends Work of Sligo Family Resource Centre
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has commended the team at Sligo Family Resource Centre in for their work in supporting the local community. The Midlands North West representative was speaking after a recent visit to Sligo FRC.
MEP MacManus said:
“I was delighted to visit the Sligo Family Resource Centre recently. We had a very positive engagement with the staff there and I want to commend them for their fantastic work in supporting the local community.
“Sligo FRC provide a wide range of supports and services to local people such as family support, disabilitiy services, distributing food hampers to those in need through the EU FEAD programme and a number of support groups to name but a few. They have a very wide catchment area which covering Sligo County and parts of Leitrim and as a result the Centre is extremely busy and supports thousands of people on a yearly basis.”
“This work is vital for addressing social exclusion, poverty, assisting marginalised groups and providing equal opportunities to all. It underlines the need for Sligo FRC and other community sector organisations to be protected and adequately resourced so that they can continue to provide these invaluable services. Sinn Féin will continue to highlight the need to support resource centres in Sligo and across the State.” ENDS
Pictured at Sligo Family Resource Centre are (L-R): Cathy McGowan, Loretta McLoughlin, Aleksandra Tomal, Chris MacManus MEP, Elizabeth King
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has condemned the murder by the Israeli military of the veteran Shireen Abu Akleh during a raid by Israeli forces into the Jenin refugee camp.
Ms Abu Akleh was shot execution style with a single bullet to the face, which Al Jazeera claims was fired by an Israeli sniper. Another journalist was shot in the back by Israeli forces but remains in a stable condition. Both journalists were wearing clearly visible blue flak jackets that identified them as journalists. While Israeli forces claim that they came under attack, other journalists who were present have state unequivocally that Israeli forces were shooting to kill.
Teachta Brady said:
“The Palestinian Authority have described the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh as an execution, and it is difficult to argue with that conclusion. Four journalists in the one car, each clearly wearing blue flak jackets and helmets, which would have identified them as journalists were fired upon by Israeli forces without the slightest provocation.
"It is clear that this attack is part of ongoing attempts by the Israelis to obscure the truth and reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This is a war crime, and it should be investigated as such.
"This attack can be placed alongside other attacks on journalists, and on the designation last year of five Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organisations by the Israelis, despite offering no evidence that this was the case. There is a clear pattern of attempts by the Israelis to silence and discredit individuals and organisations who have been reporting, cataloguing, and letting the world know about the reality of the Israeli oppression and discrimination against the Palestinian people.”
“I believe that there is a role here for the Irish government to use its position on the UN Security Council, and in the EU to call for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh to be investigated by the International Criminal Court as a potential war crime. Minister Simon Coveney needs to move beyond offering empty rhetoric, he needs to act. Israel have murdered a journalist in cold blood. This cannot be allowed to be swept under the carpet of international indifference. There needs to be accountability.”
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said tonight that businesses and the people of the north want solutions and certainty through dialogue between London and Brussels rather than unilateral threats or actions by the British government.
John Finucane was responding to comments by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
John Finucane said:
“The Irish Protocol is the solution to the British Brexit problem.
“It is also an irrefutable fact that no credible alternative to the Protocol exists which limits the impacts of Brexit on our society, people and economy.
“This bombast from Liz Truss is make believe, and simply does not represent the present realities facing us here.
“What is real, however, is that this cycle of disruption and chaos coming from Downing Street is severely undermining our political stability and it is our society, people and economy which are being forced to pay the price.
“People continue to languish on growing hospital waiting lists and workers and families are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
“They want good government and an end to the game playing by the Tory government in its negotiations with the EU.
“The Tory threats are reckless and totally unacceptable.
“People and businesses deserve certainty and we need solutions through dialogue between London and Brussels, not unilateral threats or action.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has criticised the government’s decision to oppose his plan to invest in affordable housing.
This evening, the Dáil debated a Private Member’s Bill by Teachta Ó Broin, to dramatically increase direct capital investment in the delivery of genuinely affordable homes to buy.
Speaking this evening, he said:
“The government’s decision to oppose Sinn Féin’s housing plans this evening is disgraceful and shows how unwilling they are to address the urgent housing crisis that is devastating lives across this country.
“In my motion, I set out in a clear way how the state can invest in affordable homes to buy. Passing this motion would have been a major step in tackling the housing crisis and ensuring that people on ordinary incomes can buy a home at a genuinely affordable price.
“Earlier this week, figures released to me by the government exposed scandalously low targets for genuinely affordable homes. The lack of ambition by this government is failing people affected by the housing crisis.
“Sinn Féin’s motion commits the government to urgently revise the affordable purchase home targets agreed with Local Authorities to deliver on average at least 4,000 affordable purchase homes a year from 2022 to 2026. It would also scrap the scandalous Help to Buy scheme and Shared Equity Loan scheme which push up prices and divert the funding into the delivery of genuinely affordable homes.
“Crucially, it would ensure that all affordable purchase homes are sold at prices that working people can afford.
“The government can and must do much more to ensure people can buy a genuinely affordable home, instead they are opposing our plans that would make a positive difference in people's lives. For a Minister who spends his time repeating the phrase 'I believe in homeownership', Darragh O’Brien has a funny way of showing it.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Kathleen Funchion TD has today voiced her long-standing concern that state apologies, while welcome, are not backed up with action to amend the serious failings of this state in the care of young pregnant mothers and their babies.
Teachta Funchion was responding following an apology made by Minister Roderic O’Gorman in the Seanad on behalf of the government to people who have been impacted by illegal birth registrations.
Teachta Funchion said:
“Today’s apology comes the same day we learnt that no agreement has been reached with religious orders on contributing towards redress for survivors of mother and baby homes.
“I find it deeply worrying that we cannot compel in law religious orders - who so willingly took public funds to run these horrendous institutions - to contribute towards redress.
“It also comes on the back of the state contemplating a substantial investment, likely up to €1 billion, on the new National Maternity Hospital on lands that should have been gifted to the state by the Sisters of Charity, rather than transferred through a convoluted handover of ownership to the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
“Today’s apology will be a deeply difficult moment for many affected by illegal birth registrations who have been watching with interest the passage of the Birth Information and Tracing Legislation through the Dáil, Seanad and Children’s Committee.
“As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson I have heard first-hand the heart-breaking stories from adoptees who recounted in detail their battles with the State and other agencies to obtain their personal birth and care information.
“I have always known that this legislation is ground-breaking and really matters to all adopted people.
“And I continue to be concerned that the Minister will not countenance the removal of the mandatory information session, which is very much a red line issue for Sinn Féin.”
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend those who have bravely shared their stories publicly, but equally I would also like to acknowledge and thank the countless many who have watched on silently as I and my colleagues worked through this once in a lifetime legislation.
“The significance of this legislation was not lost on me and I will continue to ensure that all victims and survivors are heard.”